OUR HIDDEN LIVES


OUR HIDDEN LIVES by Simon Garfield

Our Hidden Lives Our Hidden Lives is the first book in the trilogy of Our Hidden Lives, We are At War and Private Battles based on the diaries of ordinary British citizens written during extraordinary times.  In 1936, the Mass-Observation Project asked for volunteers to record their everyday activities and thoughts. By 1939, the tone of the Project changed with the advent of war, rations, gas masks and bombs.

Our Hidden Lives, whilst the first of the trilogy, actually records the latest events from the ending of the European theatre of war to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Nuremburg War Tribunal, the establishment of the Welfare State in Britain in July 1948, the upheavels in India and the shrinking of theBritish  Empire, the Partition of Palestine and the establishment of Israel, The Cold War and the general austerity Britain suffered in the years following the end of  World War II.

On top of that was the coldest winter so far on record in in which our various diarists felt they would never be warm again.

And the diarists?

“Meet Maggie Joy Blunt, a thoroughly modern young woman, bored out of her mind in a metal company in Slough; George Taylor, a curmudgeonly accountant from Sheffield; who gets annoyed when woken by fireworks celebrating the end of the war. Edie Rutherford, Sheffield housewife and Socialist, who is always arguing with her hairdresser; B. Charles, a gay antiques dealer in Edinburgh and a horrible snob. And meet Herbert Brush, London pensioner, active for his age, and forever creosoting his garden fence and author of ambitious but appalling poetry.”

“Herbert Brush

Retired electrical engineer, south-east London.

Good news. Hitler is really dead. I wonder what sort of reception his astral form has received on the other side.

‘I can imagine when he came

And when his victims heard his name

They gathered round him not to miss

So good a chance to boo and hiss

But those on earth may all agree

From torture he must not go free

That God Almighty has some plan

To punish such a naughty man.’ “

Definitely not poetry to remember!


Title:  Our Hidden Lives

Author: Simon Garfield

Publisher: Ebury Press, 2004

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2 thoughts on “OUR HIDDEN LIVES

    • Thanks for your comment Lisa. I found the books fascinating. I already thought I knew the history of those times but it still didn’t prepare me for the Diaries. Some of it was rather mundane, some sad and some humurous. I was very surprised at the anti-Semitic feelings expressed by all the diarists in Our Hidden Lives.

      Also, I had read about the Partitian of Palestine but I had forgotten the role of the British soldiers. Likewise with India.

      It was all the small trivia and details that I found fascinating – although I readily conceed that it is that which would turn away other readers. For instance, the lengthening of women’s skirts, the fact a woman could not appear in some places without a hat, the fragility of haircombs, and the lack of fuel due to the strikes.

      The reaction of the ordinary man and woman to the atomic bomb was also interesting to me. These days we know so much more about its destructiveness but ignorance was bliss, as they say, back then.

      All wonderful facts to me.

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